Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



In recent years, transgender media visibility has increased exponentially, which leads to changes in the media’s practice of reporting transgender issues. This calls for research to not only investigate the current patterns of the media’s reporting strategies of transgender issues, but also examine how these strategies psychologically influence how general audience perceive transgender people.

The purpose of the present dissertation is two-fold. Firstly, it takes a quantitative content analysis approach to examine how mainstream and LGBTQ news outlets represent transgender civil right issues (i.e. the “bathroom bill” controversy), with a theoretical focus on how the news outlets apply power exemplification and issue attribution in their narratives. Secondly, through an experiment, I explore how such transgender-related news representations with issue attribution and power exemplification influence the general audience’s intergroup cognition. It theoretically engages the stereotype content model (SCM), integrated threat theory (ITT), and dehumanization. More specifically, this experiment investigates how issue attribution (Societal Attribution vs. Individual Attribution) interacts with power exemplification (High-Power Transgender Exemplar vs. Low-Power Transgender Exemplar) in the media narrative to redirect people’s stereotype content of, attitudes towards, and dehumanization of transgender people.

The content analysis findings presented herein suggested that the news media outlets as a whole (i.e. mainstream news outlets, LGBTQ news outlets) were significantly more likely to 1) mention societal causes and suggest societal solutions, 2) feature high-power transgender exemplars. The mentions of societal consequences, however, did not significantly outnumber the mentions of individual consequences. Compared to the LGBTQ outlets, the mainstream outlets are more likely to mention individual causes, societal consequences, and individual solutions. Moreover, journalists tended to give less persuasive power to cisgender women and transwomen through using indirect quotation, while such a pattern is not found for men and transmen sources.

The experiment findings demonstrate that issue attribution and power exemplification in the news coverage do not significantly influence people’s stereotype content of, attitudes towards, and dehumanization of transgender people. However, realistic threats were negatively associated with perceived warmth, while symbolic threats were negatively associated with perceived competence. Also, warmth was negatively associated with perceived human uniqueness.



Committee Chair

Martin Johnson



Available for download on Wednesday, April 02, 2025